DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Analysis: ‘not’ according to my socio-egocentric self

Written by: on October 24, 2018

Wahoo. After learning how to read (Adler), and then not read (Bayard), and then to synthesise what we have or haven’t read in some useful way (Rowntree), we now get to think about what we have or haven’t read, in a critical way (Elder). So, after zipping through Paul and Linda Elder’s Critical Thinking: Concepts & Tools[1] I became aware that I am not only critically thinking about the book itself, I also need to critically think about my own critique. Likewise, when reading other critiques of Critical Thinking, there is the need to critique the critique itself, while simultaneously being self-critical of my own critique of a third-party critique. If I do not, then my own uncritiqued prejudices may stand in the way of a useful dialectic that could result in a less-than-useful biased understanding of the material being critically considered.

I must say this doctoral research can be headache inducing.

The opening page of Critical Thinking presents the above more straightforwardly.

“Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It requires rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcoming our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.” [2]

As this mini book makes clear, it is a guide to a larger text and should be carried as a sort of quick reference to critical consideration. Personally, I found the book plunged me into the murky depths of my university’s Logics department that was a requirement of my philosophy studies. I didn’t like Logics then, and I still don’t have any great affection for it now; as essential as it might be. The pinpoint critiques of various conference papers on the topics like, “Does the Chair Exist” had me yearning for the immediate return of Jesus. Though I agree with the Elder’s on precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance and fairness as reasonable measures of critical thinking in most research; their addition of ‘logic’ is curly one for me.[3] There is no specific theory of logic and how it works, and even a simple understanding of it will leave a person almost incapable of making a reasoned critique because the logic of the critique is always questionable. I prefer rationality. In colloquial terms rational and logical are used as synonyms, but they really are quite different. Rationality requires emotion and experience, whereas logic doesn’t. It’s entirely possible for logic to conclude an outcome that is ethically irrational.[4] Though I understand why the Elders use it for critical thinking in the sciences, I am uncomfortable with its use in the humanities.

Given that I have a penchant for dismissing things I dislike before engaging with them, the book reminded me that egocentric and sociocentric considerations fundamentally shape the way we think about, and articulate, our view of the world. They are what psychologists, and Christians spiritual writers, refer to as the “unconscious avoidance of light in our own lives, because we fail to see it in others”.[5] To be honest, I often read books that are not my preference because they look good in the bibliography and make it appear that I have been fair and reasonable in my critique, but all too often I haven’t really engaged with their arguments because I have fixed viewpoint that I would rather not let go. This is especially true when it comes to theology, sociology, culture and gender. Philosophy is simple because it debates the intangible; however, the previous topics cut to the heart of who I am in the world and how I live with and respond to the people around me. To put it in a more Gospel centred framework, Jesus spent most of his time navigating the actual issue of love, human and divine, rather than disconnected theology about God. I have come to realise that abstract love is lovely, but it stinks in the stark reality of daily life. Setting ego and background aside, are the first and challenging principles in actual listening, whether it be in words spoken, or written on a page.

[1] Richard Paul Elder and Linda Elder, Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools, 7th ed., Thinker’s Guide Library (Amazon Digital Services : Kindle Edition, 2014).

[2] Ibid. Loc 29

[3] Ibid. Loc 108

[4] Jean-Francois Kervegan, The Actual and the Rational: Hegel and Objective Spirit, 1st ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018). see chapter 10

[5] Robert Wicks, Availability: The Spiritual Joy of Helping Others (The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2000). 42



Elder, Richard Paul, and Linda Elder. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools. 7th ed. Thinker’s Guide Library, Amazon Digital Services : Kindle Edition, 2014.

Kervegan, Jean-Francois. The Actual and the Rational: Hegel and Objective Spirit. 1st ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

Wicks, Robert. Availability: The Spiritual Joy of Helping Others. The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2000.

About the Author

Digby Wilkinson

I am currently the Vicar of the Tawa Anglican Church in Wellington, New Zealand. I have only been in this role since February 2018. Prior to this appointment, I was the Dean of the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, which made me the senior priest of the diocese working alongside the Bishop. I guess from an American perspective this makes me look decidedly Episcopalian, however my ministry background and training was among the Baptists. Consequently, I have been serving as pastor/priest for nearly thirty years. My wife Jane also trained for ministry, and has spent the last decade spiritually directing and supervising church leaders from different denominations. We have three grown children.

4 responses to “Analysis: ‘not’ according to my socio-egocentric self”

  1. Hi Digby. I appreciate your turn to Logic in the reading. I thought it was interesting how you made the distinction between logic and rationality. Logic does seem so impersonal while rationality involves a thinker which implies a person. I wonder (there it is) if there is any sense in placing these two this way: disembodied and embodied. Huh. Maybe. I don’t know.

    It is true, I tend to conflate the two in my mind: rationality and logic. I’ll have to think and ruminate about that for awhile.

  2. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    I’m making an effort to be self-critical as I critique your critique of how we can be more self-critical. First, I think you have effectively identified the tension in my marriage whereby one of us tends to be more logical and one more emotional and both could benefit from being more rational.
    Second, I think that compassion is a key to laying ego aside in order to listen. Love will will lead us to empathy; critical thinking will lead us to rational response and acting compassionately could be the result. Jesus is often described as acting as a result of compassion and that description includes teaching, leading, healing and feeding people. Do you think that critical thinking lends itself to us lingering in the abstract too often? How would you propose we address this so a critical society doesn’t become (what I fear we are sometimes shifting towards) a society of inaction?

    • Digby Wilkinson says:

      Jenn, I think love always pushes us toward the other. Ego I think is better described as defensiveness, which is observable in that it forces the other away. We do it in our marriages all the time and naming it can lead to growth.
      It think critical thinking without a foundation to leap from will always lead to what I call “Verbal Limbo” We speak a lot but achieve little. We engage with social issues for the sake of the engagement and not an outcome to which we will give our lives. I think I wrote in a comment to Karen that we need clear premises about which we are shamelessly convinced. I don’t mean esoteric doctrines about the divine which have nothing to do with our actual lives, but concrete foundations from which our life springs each day. Wow, that was a waffle.

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    You are so smart your humor makes my head hurt! You truly have the gift of sarcasm which always masks a salient point in deep-fried dry humor. Like you, I prefer rationality to logic. Our life in Christ, our experiences, our pains, and our joys form us and form our thinking. To your final point, whatever helps us to “open” our ears and really listen to the other, will immeasurably aid our efforts in serving them and the Kingdom. As usual, I am not sure I understood everything you said, but I always appreciate the manner you state and explain your arguments. Blessings, H

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